Lleyton Hewitt has slammed the prospect of the Davis Cup moving to Abu Dhabi for the next five years, describing the proposal as "ridiculous." The Australian Davis Cup captain said the move would represent "selling the soul" of the competition to the Middle East.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is set to confirm Abu Dhabi as the new main base of the Davis Cup Finals on a five-year deal starting from 2022, according to The Telegraph. Saudi Arabia was also reportedly considered as an option to be the new host until investment group Kosmos - led by Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique - settled on the United Arab Emirates.
Kosmos effectively took over the Davis Cup in 2018 and staged the inaugural reformed Davis Cup Finals in Madrid in 2019. This year's edition is being held across three cities - Madrid, Turin and Innsbruck.
Speaking after Australia lost 3-0 to Croatia on the opening day of the 2021 Davis Cup Finals on Thursday, Hewitt criticized news of the event's expected new location.
"I think it's ridiculous - it's not what Davis Cup is about," Hewitt said. "So if they are going and selling the soul of the Davis Cup to the Middle East for another five years, they are really killing the competition."
The two-time Davis Cup champion then expressed how special the Davis Cup was to him in its old format during his playing career.
"Some of my greatest memories were playing in Davis Cup semis and finals, in front of packed houses, and it didn't matter if it was in Australia, or it was away," Hewitt continued. "The atmosphere was incredible. Davis Cup was held in the highest regard - it was up there with the pinnacle of our sport in men's tennis."
"The ITF certainly didn't come to me and ask my thoughts" - Lleyton Hewitt on proposed Davis Cup move
Lleyton Hewitt went on to label the Davis Cup being run by footballer Gerard Pique and Kosmos as something tennis has not experienced before. The Australian also revealed the ITF had not consulted him on his views on the reported move to Abu Dhabi.
"It's being run by a soccer player and his company, so it's totally different to anything tennis has been through in the past," Hewitt added. "The ITF certainly didn't come to me and ask my thoughts. But we didn't have input four years ago, so I'm not sure it's going to matter much now."